12 Incredibly Powerful and Fierce Mythological Women Who Deserve to Be Better Known
If you thought women were just accessories in mythology, think again. With fierce heroines fromDraupadi, who did not stand for patriarchal norms at all, to Hel, the ruler of the underworld in Norse mythology, we wonder how women ever got the tag of being 'weak' or 'vulnerable.'
Here are some of the most badass women from the world of mythology.
Draupadi (Indian Mythology)
Born from the fire, Draupadi was fiery, gorgeous, and strong-willed. She was also a planner and an astute strategist. She knew when to take revenge against her enemies so well that she never failed. Her burning passion for revenge against the Kauravas, who tried to disrobe her in a full assembly, cannot be forgotten as this became one of the main causes for the epic war of Kurukshetra in The Mahabharata. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni wove a brilliantly feminist narrative, named The Palace of Illusions, that centered around Draupadi and how she changed the course of the Mahabharata.
Anath (Ugaritic/Ancient Semitic Mythology)
This ancient Canaanite goddess of love and war is definitely someone you want on your side. Sister of the storm god Ba’al, the virgin warrior Anath was famed for her ferocity in battle. An ancient Ugaritic text describes Anat’s revenge against a man who slighted her in no uncertain terms: "Anat seized Mot, the divine son,/ With a sickle she cut him,/ with a winnow she winnows him,/ with fire she scorches him,/ with a mill she crushes him,/ she scatters his flesh in the field to be eaten by birds."
Hel (Norse mythology)
Move over, Thor, the clearest badass in the Norse pantheon is Hel, ruler of the eponymous underworld of Norse mythology. Not only did she have the crucial job of judging the dead, she also had an important and terrifying role to play in Norse eschatology. In the legend of Ragnarok, the Norse foretelling of the Apocalypse, Hel’s role was to lead an army of the dead in a ship made from the fingernails of corpses. She literally brings the end of the world with her.
Tefnut (Ancient Egyptian Mythology)
Tefnut was the ancient Egyptian goddess of moisture, rain and dew — a very significant task in a desert country. Daughter of the sun god Ra, she was depicted as a lion-headed goddess, occasionally with the body of a serpent. Tefnut’s rage caused droughts, her return brought renewed life, and she was the mother of all the elemental gods of Egypt, including the gods of the sky and earth, and grandmother of Egypt’s principal gods, Horus, Isis, Osiris, and Set.
Louhi (Finnish Mythology)
Lovatar is a goddess who takes many forms and has many names. Featured in the ancient Finnish epic The Kalevala,she is the blind daughter of the god of death. Lovatar gave birth to nine deadly diseases including plague, sterility, and cancer. In The Kalevala, Lovatar takes the form of a powerful, shape-shifting witch named Louhi who fiercely battles the epic's protagonists. Later on in the epic, Louhi attempts to steal the sun, moon, and stars. In the contemporary world, she is beloved by many of the contemporary Finnish black metal musicians.
Kundalakesi (Buddhist Mythology)
One of the five great Tamil epics, the Kundalakesi is supposedly about this strong minded beautiful woman. However, only a few fragments of this epic remain, while the rest are lost. The Kundalakesa of Therigatha is purported a treasurer’s daughter. She was beautiful and had amassed a great fortune. One day, she saved a young thief from execution and then married him, because she thought she loved him. The thief tried to kill her and steal all her jewels, and so, she pushed him off a hill, before turning to Buddhism, and casually moving on with life.
Hidimba (Indian Mythology)
She is the modern day version of a single mother who raises a son with all the right values and qualities, with no help from anyone. Bheem's wife Hidimba was a rakshasi or demon. She fell in love with Bheem and after marriage, they lived together only for a limited period of time. Then Bheem left and Hidimba gave birth to Ghatotkach, his son, and took care of him alone without any help. Like a strong woman in any epic, she hasn't really been mentioned much, but the fact that a single mother can survive and do just-alright-thank-you-very-much, without a man by her side is enforced by this character.
Itzpapalotl (Aztec Mythology)
Itzpapalotl, whose name means either 'obsidian butterfly' or 'clawed butterfly', was a fearsome skeletal warrior goddess, who ruled over the world of Tamoanchan, which is the paradise of victims of infant mortality and the place identified as where humans were created, one of the many worlds in Aztec mythology. She is the mother of Mixcoatl, one of the most important gods of the Aztec culture. Some of her associations are birds and fire. Legend says that she was a magical doe with the strange ability to take on the form of a beautiful young woman in order to seduce and murder men. She transforms herself into a warrior goddess associated with fire. She was always depicted as a terrifying skeletal creature with deadly claws sharp enough to tear a grown man to shreds. She was believed to be a type of Tzitzimitl, a deadly race of star creatures who prey on weak humans.
Antigone (Greek Mythology)
Antigone was the mortal daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta, and her sister was Ismene. She was strong in every way imaginable. She openly defied her evil uncle King Creon to bury her brother, Polydeuces, saying that an immoral law should not be followed. Ismene struggles to persuade her sister Antigone to obey the edict of their uncle Creon, the new head of state: “We’re girls,” she cries. “Girls cannot force their way against men.” Antigone would not listen to her. She belongs to the class of female characters who did what they believed in and did not let men knock her around. She was one of Greek mythology's mostpowerful, flawed, and fiercely independent female characters.
Artemis (Greek Mythology)
Artemis was the Greek goddess of the hunt. The daughter of Zeus and Leto, as well as the last of the three maiden goddesses (along with Hestia and Athena), she was one of the most liberated females in mythology. Artemis didn't carry the moon across the sky, but being a moon goddess was definitely part of her identity. She was the protector of young women as well as a midwife. Her worship ranged from very dark (human sacrifice) to personal (virgins dedicated her their lingerie on the night they married) to just fun (women dressing up like a bear and dancing).Her first request to Zeus, when she was a child, was his word to never force her into marriage. Artemis was a strong shield behind whom many young women and young men took refuge, but she expected perfection from her followers and her punishment for those who didn't meet her expectations was often death.
Morrigan (Celtic Mythology)
Morrigan is a trio of supernatural women who form a terrifying collective. They stand for war, death, sovereignty, and the protection of the community, and spend their free time starting fights and provoking young men into doing stupid things for their amusement.The Morrigan is wild and they are bloody, they dance on spear tips and drive people to battle frenzy in the name of glory or entertainment. They are commonly shown washing bloody clothes at a river ford; when approached, they tell the enquirer the clothes are theirs. They are an omen of death. They are also one of the most powerful female figures, and the tale is that without their approval, none of the Irish kings can reign.
Mami Wata is venerated throughout much of Africa and the African diaspora of the Atlantic. An embodiment of the spirit of water, Mami Wata often appears in the guise of a mermaid, accompanied by a snake that serves as a symbol of divinity. In African legends, Mami Wata is both protective and seductive, with a volatile, dangerous temperament suited to her element of water. She is known to capture spirits and bestow riches, and to govern an innumerable host of water spirits known as mami watas and papi watas. Brought by enslaved Africans to the Americas, Mami Wata is also an important figure in contemporary Vodoun practice. Her strength fuels many black women and she is a major impact on cultural feminism in African-Americans.
There are so many strong female characters that pepper the mythologies of the world and we haven't even uncovered half of them. Instead of glorifying Zeus and his cadre of male gods, we should be learning about the strength and perseverance of the motley of mortal and immortal females who grace the folktales, lore, and myths.